Review on Bilingual Research for Parenting

As children with multi language exposure, parents must get to know current Bilingual Education Research and recommendations regarding the language development of bilingual children and early language intervention. As parents, if we are familiar with the current Bilingual Education Research, we can better answer some questions such as, “How should we talk to our child? Should we use one language or two?” In addition, we can provide better early language intervention.

Bilingual Education Research: In favor of bilingual

We do not yet know the limits of the human mind
From the 30’s research that said children could be cognitively confused when introduced to two languages at once, therefore, some of parents are fear of overloading their children with two languages and make their children confused. However, these studies have since been dismissed for poor methodology. In fact, by recent research, we do not yet know the limits of the human mind, we only know that the more you give it, the more it can grow. The more connections will be built among new information. Children have an enormous capacity for languages.

Divergent-thinking advantages
Divergent-thinking advantages are reported by some researchers on bilingualism. Learning two languages early can help children to see that there is more than one way of saying something, which leads them to better understand there is more than one way to look at a problem and more than one solution they may get. Bilingual children, therefore, tend to be more creative in problem solving according to McGill University Professor Lambert’s paper, “Effects of Bilingualism on the Individual” published by New York Academic Press, in 1974.

The increase of meta-linguistic awareness
Another benefit of language acquisition is the increase of meta-linguistic awareness, a greater sensitivity to language in general and a greater awareness of meaning and structure in language, because multilingual children receive more linguistic input, which requires a greater amount of language analysis.

Baker’s “A Parent’s and Teacher’s Guide to Bilingualism” by Multilingual Matters Ltd, in 2000, finds that bilinguals are also better at using new vocabulary even in their own first language because by knowing there are two words for everything, children pay more attention to words’ meanings and tend to use even words in English more accurately.

Significant delay of memory loss in adulthood
Recent research indicates that bilingual delay memory problems in later years, because additional effort expended in speaking another language boosts blood supply to the brain and ensures nerve connections remained healthy. By using a different language, different areas of our brain are used. Memory is kept via constant activity.

Bilingual Education Research: Worries on bilingual

Semi-lingual
In late 1970’s, Dr. Jim Cummins’ research suggested that if a child’s first language learned has not reached a certain threshold of competence, then the child may become “semi-lingual”, which reflects low levels of competence in both languages. While bilingualism has generally been considered to be of cognitive benefit, some studies have shown that it has negative effects on cognitive and academic progress. This controversy is ongoing. Cummins explained the negative results of these studies as being associated with linguistic minorities, where the minority language was being replaced in some sense by the socially dominant one, while the studies that found a positive effect were associated with “additive bilingualism,” a situation in which majority-language children acquire a second language.

Later research objected to Cummins’ rule on empirical and theoretical grounds. In Carey Myles’ book, Raising Bilingual Children, she contends that subsequent studies have shown that bilingual children who were significantly weaker in one language than the other, still achieved higher scores than monolingual children on various tests.

One Parent – One Language

One Parent – One Language is a popular approach in bilingual family. If only one parent speaks a different language, in this case, the monolingual parent speaks the language of the country’s majority to the child and the bilingual parent speaks the different language.

Children pick up early which parent doesn’t speak the second language and will be comfortable with having time with this parent in the language of the country. Some parents handle this time but continuing to speak in the second language with the children, but still understanding the topic in the language of the country. Eventually the children learn some passive such as listening knowledge of the second language.

Conclusion on Bilingual Education Research

The general consensus of the most linguists is that a child must be at grade level with one of the two languages if the child is bilingual by the Bilingual Education Research. The child’s English, for example, isn’t compromised by having less proficiency in another language.

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Raising Multilingual Children Successfully

Firstly, I would like to clarify that my definition of a multilingual child is that a child is learning two or more languages at same time. I believe that raising multilingual children is one of the best gifts we can give to our children, which gives our children an edge to succeed in the global society. How do you define your success for Raising Multilingual Children?

In the previous post, “Raising a Multilingual Child: The Pros and Cons (part 2)“I mentioned that we are going to discuss on how to raise a multilingual child successfully. Here, let’s discuss on it.

How do you define your success for raising multilingual children?

Each child is different, and each family is different. The definition of success for raising a multilingual child should be different. My definition is that as long as I try my best to provide the languages rich environment and motivate and guide my children as possible as I can. I am a successful parent who is raising a multilingual child.

What’s your unique situation?

Raising a multilingual child can be a choice that some families make, while for other families it is just a way of living and it comes naturally.

There are different types of multilingual families. In order to make the discussion easier, here we categorize them into four types.

  1. Originally, the family is a monolingual family, they just speak one language same as the physical living environment, but the family believes in the importance of speaking another language.
  2. A  monolingual family live in a different language environment. A lots of immigration families are examples of this category.
  3. A bilingual family in a same language environment. For example a Spanish mother and English father living in the united states. One of the parents speaks a minority language while the other speaks the majority language, which is the same as the physical living environment, and both languages are used at home. This kind of families fall into this category.
  4. A Multilingual family living in a different language environment. For example, a Chinese mother, and a German father living and bringing up their children in the united states. Each parent speaks a language different to the majority language and the children are exposed at least to three languages, the mother’s, the father’s and the majority language spoken in the school and community.

How can we raising multilingual children successfully?

The answer varies depending on each child and each family. What works for one family might not work for another. Find a unique way meeting your child and your family needs. The most important thing is to know your situation, relax, be happy with your child’s language development and enjoy the journey with your child and your family.

Here are some of the thoughts and tips that I would like to share with you.

  1. Define your own success for raising a multilingual child by your own situation and needs. Set high goals to pursue, but have reality expectation.
    In the reality, even if your child does not become perfectly bilingual. You child will still have the neurological, cultural and social advantages that a different language and a different mindset can give him or her. You have given your child the best possible linguistic start in life, let him or her explore later.
  2. Talk with you spouse or partners and make a agreement on raising a multilingual child. Ask other family members, such as grandparents to cooperate.
  3. There is no one right way to do it. Each child is different, each family is different, and what works for some families may be unrealistic for others. Try different methods to find out what works best for your particular situation.
  4. You can try two different methods:
    • The person orientated method : One or more persons always speak to the child in a particular language.
    • The time or place orientated method : The whole family always speak a particular language in a particular place, for example at home or at a particular time for example in the evening or on Sunday.
  5. Start early as possible as you can. If you have a native language, speak it from birth and even during pregnancy with your child.
  6. It is never too late to start. The earlier the better, but if you give your child rich language environment, put in sufficient effort, you child can become really fluent.
  7. To help your child to develop listening and speaking skills, talk to your child as much as you can; provide your child audio study materials such as podcast, CDs; video study materials, such as video cast, DVDs; visit relatives and friends who are saying the languages you child is learning; talk with the person who speaks the languages in your community; travel to the courtiers, in which the languages are speaking, if you have the opportunities. A Multilingual Talking Dictionary is a great tool helping us to learn and master the languages.
  8. To help your child to develop reading skills, read to your child as much as you can. In addition, provide your child books, language learning games, find multilingual schools to help you child on reading.
  9. To help your child to develop writing skills, provide your child handwriting worksheet and writing composition worksheet. A multilingual school or after school program helps your child on writing.
  10. Be prepare for difficulties. As your child grows older or as goals for proficiency progress from speaking and listening to reading and writing, you sure encounter some difficulties.
    Confusion is normal for a multilingual child. Your child may use more than one language in their sentences. Even when they make mistakes, they may sound confused, at some point. Don’t worry, just gently repeat everything in the language you want them to speak, your child will master the language.
    Once your child starts school, like any multilingual child, he or she will revert to the ‘dominant language’ , the language taught in at school. Parents speak in their mother tongue and the children reply for example in English. Many parents make the mistake to give up trying and revert to English themselves.  Be prepared to make sure you persevere.
  11. Make your effort but try to in a natural way.  I believe what comes naturally is the best, because then you will be consistent. It is the only self-imposed rule that works. Raising a multilingual child is a commitment. Language learning is a long-term investment in your child and will require that you are able to provide enough language exposure.
  12. Find multilingual communities, share experience, learn and get motivated and enjoy in your raising multilingual children journey. If you relax, enjoy it and make it fun, your child will enjoy it too and be more likely to use their additional languages.

Parents, if you agree with me, let’s help our children to build a valuable skill they’ll use in numerous ways for the rest of their lives! Start early as possible as we can and sows the seeds for greater success in mastering the languages and our children will benefit it in many ways for life.

What’s your unique situation? What’s your thoughts on Raising Multilingual Children?

If you are interested, please refer to “Multilingual Books Review“.

To learn more parenting skills, please refer to great parenting books.

Raising Multilingual Children: The Pros and Cons (Part 2)

As parents, when we decide whether to raise multilingual children, we need to weigh pros and cons. In last post we discussed the Pros of raising multilingual Children, in this post we discuss Cons.

The Cons

The following are the potential disadvantages to my knowledge currently. Since these are potential disadvantages, they are not true in every case.

1. Speak Later

Many parents of bilingual or trilingual children estimate that there is a three to six month delay compared to monolingual children at the same age. It makes sense that a multilingual child is recognizing and producing sounds in more than one language system and that process takes time and practice. Do not worry, the child will catch up with his monolingual peers with the added advantage of being multilingual!

2. Mix languages

Mixing words is very common in children learning more than one language at a time . Just like children who are learning only one language often use the wrong word until they learn the right one. This is a temporary phenomenon will disappear with the children acquire more on the language.

3. Additional effort

Raising a multilingual child is a commitment. This is a long-term investment in your child. It will require extra effort on your part to provide enough language exposure, extra encouragement, keeping your language rules consistent, and if it is possible find the best multilingual school or after school supplementary education program for your child. I see many passive bilinguals who can understand but not speak the language their parents speak.

4. Heavier academic load

Teaching a multilingual child to read and write adds to the academic load, especially if the aim is full literacy in all of your chosen languages. Just as the old saying, ” What you plant now, you will harvest later”.

5. Language fluency

If not managed well, children raised multilingual have the risk of not mastering any one of the chosen languages, and subsequently having difficulties in successful completion of a formal education. In terms of academic success, children can chose one primary language.

6. Speech impediments

Even a monolingual child may have Speech impediments problem. However, multilingual needs the child to address each language individually, which does increase difficulties in the pronunciation of the language. For those children who have weak language development, letting them focus one language first, is the advice my pediatrician gave me.

By the summary of the pros and cons on raising a multilingual child above, I personally think that raising a multilingual child has more advantages vs. disadvantages.

The next question is how we can raise multilingual children successfully?
We will discuss the question in our next post.

If you are interested, please refer to “Multilingual Books Review“.

To learn more parenting skills, please refer to great parenting books.